View from the top

View from the top

John Combs, CEO, ShoreTel
John Combs, CEO, ShoreTel

John Combs, CEO at ShoreTel, was in town recently to meet his top UK VARs and talk about the new release 11 of their communications software. Comms Business Magazine caught up with him at Heathrow just after their Partner Advisory Council the night before.

Terminal Five at Heathrow was the venue to meet a relaxed John Combs, CEO of ShoreTel. Combs was in the UK for a few days to meet with his top VARs so we took the opportunity to check out the latest release 11 of his comms platform and get an update on current company strategy.

“Six months ago our focus was on simplicity; our customers tell us that our product is easy to use and easy to scale. Together with five nines reliability this message has resonated throughout the market. This simple, easy to use, reliable yet highly functional product is expensive for us to deliver. 23% of our revenues are going back into the product. It was difficult to engineer but now we have achieved that goal.

“In the last year we have place more focus on contact centre applications – we are just about to close a 1000-seat sale spread over more than ten sites, and our new release 11 in July is very significant for us and our channel partners.


“Simplicity is once again at the heart of the product and our aim is to open up further conversations with resellers. Once again too, the software upgrade to release 11 is free of charge to those customers with a service contract. There is a charge for installation and implementation.

“Significant amongst the many new features introduced is ShoreTel Communicator. Previously known as ShoreTel Call Manager, this application is now web-based, and puts us now in the Mac environment.

“Release 11 will also see our mobile application available for the iPhone and the introduction of IP655, a new IP conference phone. At the same time our conference bridge has been enhanced to take advantage of increased bandwidth availability and includes video as well as audio conferencing.

“Our total cost of ownership proposition remains very important. Customers have figured out that only 25% of TCO is represented by the initial cost of the system and that the remaining 75% of cost is spread over the next three, four or five years. With other competitive systems customers get whacked by exceeding the system capacity and they get whacked by the cost of feature upgrades whilst the complexity of these systems also drives up the post sales costs.

“Our total cost of ownership is guaranteed by ShoreTel. We have a sophisticated ROI tool and ShoreTel will lower our prices to a competitor level if the tool indicates that product is cheaper.”

With regards to the future Combs says the company is staying with a CPE model, however, with Release 11 there is now an option as the vendor introduces a virtualisation alternative.

“Even in a non-virtualised environment ShoreTel starts from the premise of having our entire unified communications portfolio on a single high density, highly efficient server. It’s one of the things that make ShoreTel unique. Release 11 now extends that capability to a virtual environment and rather than taking a proprietary approach we support VMware vShpere management and ESX and ESXi hosts. This is consistent with most enterprise virtualisation strategies which means ShoreTel can just ‘slot in’.

“In addition ShoreTel’s virtualisation option allows us to leverage VMware vMotion and HA (High Availability) which are two of the ‘must haves’ for effective administration and business continuity.”

Combs says that companies such as Avaya, Siemens and Mitel have lots of debts. “We are making significant investments for the future. Our sales team is being increased by 40% and our engineering team by 20% whilst we are running a branding campaign to take advantage of the market position we have. We have no debt and cash in the bank. Our target is to become a $1 billion company in three to four years. This is the time for ShoreTel to ‘Go Big or Go Home’.”

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